Performance Summary: Let's get the easy part out of the way first. In terms of gaming performance, a dual-card GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB SLI configuration currently has no equal. In most of the standard benchmarks where no anti-aliasing or anisotropic filtering was used, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB SLI configuration was clearly the fastest setup we tested. And in the tests where it didn't have a clear advantage over the competition, it was because the benchmark was CPU limited. Throw anti-aliasing and aniso into the mix, and the GeForce 7800 GTX SLI rig easily pulls ahead of every other configuration in about 85% of the tests, and the remaining 15% are CPU limited.
The performance picture changes slightly if we focus on the performance of a single GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB versus its ATI built rival, the Radeon X1800 XT. In the single card tests, the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB outperformed the X1800 XT in 10 of 13 tests, occasionally by very large margins. With anti-aliasing and anisotropic filtering enabled, a single GeForce 7800 GTX 512 took the top spot in 6 of 12 tests, essentially tied in 3 tests, and lost to the Radeon X1800 XT in only 3. It's clear, based on these numbers, the new GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB is an best of class performer.
Looking at the features and performance of the new 512MB GeForce 7800 GTX from a hardcore gamer's standpoint, you can't help but be impressed by this product. Thanks to some tweaks to its manufacturing process, some faster, higher-capacity RAM, and a powerful cooler, NVIDIA was able to take the already very fast GeForce 7800 GTX and make it considerably more powerful. In both single-card and dual-card SLI configurations the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB was measurably faster than not only its 256MB cousin, but ATI's flagship Radeon X1800 XT as well. And as we showed in our recent coverage of ATI's Radeon X1K family launch, NVIDIA and ATI based products currently have similar in-game image quality, and offer similar performance when playing back video depending on the scenario.
NVIDIA also has an advantage in terms of availability. Because this is yet another "hard launch", the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB will be available immediately from multiple outlets. The price for this monolith? -- A hefty $649 (MSRP as told to us by NVIDIA). But considering ATI's Radeon X1800 XT is currently selling for $599, which is incidentally $50 higher than ATI's original MSRP, NVIDIA can easily justify the price. If history is any indicator though, expect multiple partners to bring 512MB GeForce 7800 GTX cards to market and prices to drop rather quickly.
Heading into the holiday buying season, NVIDIA is in a very strong position. They've got very strong products in every segment of the market - The GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB at the ultra-high-end, the GeForce 7800 GT in the performance-mainstream segment, the new 6800 GS in the mainstream segment, and the GeForce 6600 256MB DDR2 in the budget segment. Let's hope for competition's sake that ATI can work some magic soon, or it's going to be a rough Golden Quarter for the red team.
** Update 11/14/2005 (12:30PM) - It looks like the GeForce 7800 GTX 512MB is already available at a few on-line retailers, but unfortunately prices are much higher than MSRP at the moment. Prices range from $50 to $100 higher than MSRP at NewEgg, Monarch, ZipZoomFly, and Tiger Direct.
•_Another hard launch!
•_Big performance gains with SLI
•_Mature multi-GPU platform
•_Back to a dual-slot cooler